Roses Are Red (novel)

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Roses Are Red
Author James Patterson
Country United States
Language English
Series Alex Cross
Genre Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher Warner Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 400 pp
ISBN 0-316-69325-1
OCLC 43641257
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3566.A822 R67 2000
Preceded by Pop Goes the Weasel
Followed by Violets Are Blue

Roses Are Red is the sixth novel featuring the Washington, D.C. homicide detective and forensic psychiatrist Alex Cross written by James Patterson.

Plot summary[edit]

Alex Cross returns for the sixth book in the series with a new killer on the loose. A series of meticulously planned bank robberies leave behind a wake of bodies. Alex Cross must not only battle against the sadistic criminal who calls himself The Mastermind, but also the risks that he may be putting his family in. Cross takes a plunge into a case where mind games lead to violence and the slightest mistake will be punished with death.

Plot In-Depth[edit]

The book begins with a young 24-year-old woman named Brianne Parker standing just outside of a Citibank. As soon as the teller opens the bank, Brianne puts on a mask of U.S. President Bill Clinton and, armed with a .357 Magnum revolver, tells the teller to step inside. She tells the teller to go to the manager's office. Brianne informs him that she has to be out in eight minutes or both the teller and the manager will die. Once inside the manager's office, Brianne tells the manager to open the vault, who explains that the safe is automatically opened at a random time. At that moment the phone rings; the manager's husband is being held hostage by another robber, who will kill him, their son and nanny if Brianne does not leave the bank with the money before 8.10. The manager opens the safe and after taking the money Brianne locks the teller and the manager in the safe and leaves. She does not call the man holding the family hostage, and subsequently the manager's family are killed. This was part of a larger plan by a criminal known as the Mastermind.

At the residence of Dr. Alex Cross, they are having a christening for little Alex. Halfway through the party Kyle Craig arrives, both Christine and Alex know that he is here on business and not for the party. Christine begs Alex to not work that night; Alex understands and goes to talk to Kyle. Kyle has come to ask for Alex's assistance with the aforementioned robbery-murder. Despite Alex's resistance he eventually decides to help after Kyle persists that he is the best man for the job. Alex returns to the party and discovers that Christine has left with little Alex without saying goodbye.

The Mastermind visits Brianne and Errol Parker at their hideout in an abandoned building. He brings pizza and wine to celebrate the perfect crime. Eroll wonders why he had to kill the managers family if they had the money. The Mastermind explains that it was part of the plan. Suddenly the Parkers begin to choke; the Mastermind had poisoned the food with suxamethonium chloride and they die within minutes. The Mastermind raises his wine glass and makes a toast “to perfect crimes.”

A few nights later, Cross visits Christine at the school. She is still troubled by the events of the previous year and has been visiting a psychiatrist. On the way home she tells Alex that because he's involved himself in another robbery-murder case that she cannot be sure of his, her own or their child's safety and has to leave him. Alex begins to immerse himself in the robbery case after the breakup. He and Sampson visit two street police informants. The first offers information that the stepbrother of Alex's late wife was involved in the murder-robbery, but when they try and contact Errol and Brianne Parker they are not at home and no has seen them for weeks. The second informant informs them that the Parkers have an apartment in First Avenue projects. Sampson and Cross follow the lead and go to the abandoned building. After searching the apartments they find the decomposing bodies of the Parkers. Brianne's shirt had been removed and her jeans pulled down; an autopsy later confirms that she had been raped post-mortem. Cross calls Kyle Craig to tell him he's found the bodies of the suspects.

That same morning, the new crew hired by The Mastermind begin to put his next plan into action in Falls Church, Virginia. The new crew are specialized and are known by codenames; Mr. Red, Mr. White, Mr. Blue and Ms. Green. Blue and Green go to the First Union National Bank, while Red and White hold the manager's wife and three kids hostage. Red and White make a videotape to show the manager that they were holding the family hostage. Meanwhile at the bank Ms. Green keeps a gun on the tellers and Mr. Blue explained the rules to the bank manager. He explains that if the police are alerted in any way they will all be killed. Just as the robbers finish loading the money, a warning comes on the police radio scanner Mr. Blue was carrying, that a robbery was in progress at the bank. Mr. Blue, true to his word kills them all. It is later revealed that The Mastermind had planned for them to be killed, and he had tipped off the police.

Cross arrives on scene to meet Kyle and his team from the FBI, Senior Agent Betsy Cavalierre, Agent Michael Doud and Agent James Walsh. Inside the bank they find the bank manager and a teller lying dead on the floor. Inside the vault they find two more tellers dead, their bodies riddled with bullets. Cross asks about the family of the bank manager. Kyle informs him that the family was released by the kidnappers and are unharmed.

Later that evening, Alex gives Damon and Janelle boxing lesson. Damon accidentally strikes Jannie in the side of the head and she consequently has a seizure. At the hospital, the doctors run a series of tests, but cannot determine the cause of the seizure. While Alex is at the hospital with Jannie, Kyle Craig calls him to let him know another bank has been hit.

Cross arrives in Rosslyn, Virginia where inside the bank he is greeted by Kyle Craig and his team. No one was hurt and the robbers got away with the money, the manager's family was being held hostage but their status is unknown as the phone line is dead. Alex, Kyle and Betsy head to the manager's home where they find everyone safe and alive. Unknown to Alex, The Mastermind was watching them at the house.

Cross calls the hospital where a nurse tells him that Jannie has had another seizure. At the hospital, Jannie is having an MRI. The doctor tells Alex that Jannie has a tumor. He spends another night at the hospital again. The next morning, Interpol agent Sandy Greenberg calls Alex to tell him Lucy Cousins, Geoffrey Shafer's wife was murdered at a supermarket. Shafer's children were okay and recognized him. Alex goes to visit Christine who is emotionally devastated. It's revealed that she has nightmares and cannot concentrate. She walks off without turning around.

Alex meets the FBI agents in the bank robbery case. Elsewhere, the Mastermind is having trouble sleeping and writes a complaint letter to the CEO of Citibank about bad customer service. After he writes the letter he signs it and stores it in a filing cabinet. The Mastermind knows that sending the letter is dangerous and could get him caught. We also learn that he holds the government, banks and internet companies in contempt. Janelle has surgery to remove the tumor. Alex takes two days off from work. The surgery is successful and Jannie begins to recover.

Two days later, Alex returns to work. Cavalierre tell Alex that she has a lead. A former bank robber returned to town by the name of Tony Brophy. Tony committed violent bank robberies. Betsy agrees to buy information from him. Tony tells Cross and Cavalierre that he met the man behind the murders, a man who calls himself the Mastermind. Tony tells them that the Mastermind knew everything about him, even all the small details. Tony tells them that he could not see him. The lights were bright in the room he met the Mastermind and could only see a silhouette. He tells them that he was not hired for the job because The Mastermind was looking for killers, not bank robbers.

Cross and Cavalierre go through files of hate mail from the banks that were robbed. One letter in particular draws their attention. The man who wrote it lived nearby. The man's name is Joseph Petrillo, who wrote a hate letter every week for the last two years. Petrillo was a former security guard who was laid off by Citibank. The letters were intelligent and well written. The two go to see Petrillo who shoots at them. Once back up arrives they burst in, but find Petrillo had shot himself in the head, killing himself instantly.

That night, Christine calls Alex and tells him Shafer was in her house. He tells her to get out of the house with little Alex and call the police. Alex arrives at her house where the police are already there. Alex goes inside and Christine is frantic. She insists that Shafer is there. Cross checks the house himself but finds no one had ever been there. Early the next morning, Mr. Blue is hiding behind a tree. He is ready to kidnap the wife of a Chase Manhattan bank manager. For three days the place had been scoped out. Suddenly the wife is about to leave fifteen minutes earlier than expected. He manages to catch up with her, pulls a gun and hits her with it. They go inside the house.

When Cross and Cavalierre get to the bank all the employees, except one are dead. The manager's wife is also dead. The survivor has a message from the Mastermind. The message was that everyone was dead because a mistake was made. The survivor, the bank's security guard, also blames himself for not protecting his friends. Later that day, the Mastermind goes to pay a visit to his crew. He brings pizza and wine again. This time it was laced with marplan as the poison. After they are all dead he has sex with the dead Ms. Green. Three days later, Alex spends the day with little Alex. He takes him back to Christine's, who informs Alex that she is leaving Washington DC and cannot take little Alex with her.

The Mastermind interviews his new crew. Three of the five men had shown up: Brian MacDougal, B.J. Stringer and Robert Shaw. They are from New York. The leader, Brian MacDougal, said the other two are at work. The next job was for $15 million. In reality the other two members, Vincent O'Malley and Jimmy Crews, are outside in a parking lot listening to the whole thing. The two members outside wait for the Mastermind to go out of the hotel and follow him to a mental institution named Hazelwood. The next day, Cross goes to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. He is there to meet with Craig, Cavalierre, the FBI director and the Secretary of Justice. The SOJ wants results. Cross and Cavalierre work late. There are a number of suspects with dozens of agents working the case.

The next day, a van pulls in front of a tourist bus. The bank crew takes a bus full of tourists hostage. He instructs everyone to get rid of cell phones and tells the driver to follow the van. A fax is sent to the directors of the Metro Hartford Insurance Company, who were meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, informing them that a bus carrying many of their wives is being held hostage and if $30 million is not received in five hours everyone will die. The kidnappers inform them that they are the ones responsible for the other robberies and that those robberies were committed as object lessons for them. The FBI is told that the Metro Hartford will pay the ransom. The Mastermind is on the scene outside of the Mayflower Hotel.

Cross, Walsh, Doud and Cavalierre are ready to make the drop. The call comes from the kidnappers who give them instructions:

1. $5 million in uncut diamonds in one duffel bag.

2. No more than eight other duffel bags.

3. The cash in $50 and $20 only.

4. No dye packs and no tracking devices.

5. Pick up a delivery at the front desk. Inside are walkie talkies.

6. Load money into a van and head north.

7. No surveillance planes or helicopters.

8. Head to the Washington-Baltimore airport.

9. At 5:10pm exactly they should be on the train from Baltimore to Boston. It's the Mastermind speaking to them.

While on the train, the Mastermind toys with the FBI and Cross several times by getting them ready to throw the money and then telling them to stop. Finally the money is dropped. They exit the train seven miles later. When Cross, Cavalierre, Doud and Walsh exit the station, other FBI's are there waiting. They inform them that they got a break and a woman reported the bus being seen at an abandoned farm. When they get there all the people are alive inside the house. Cross is now working sixteen hour days. The FBI has a suspect, a former U.S. Army sergeant named Mitchell Brand, who fits the profile. He was violent, had committed six bank robberies and has an IQ of over 150. That night Sampson comes over for a beer. Alex tells John Sampson that it's over between Christine and him and that little Alex was coming to live with them.

The next morning Sampson calls Alex and tells him they found Mitchell Brand at an east side ghetto building and that Chief Pittman had ordered a lot of man power to bring him in. Alex leaves immediately. When Alex gets there he sees the situation is out of control and there are too many police officers there. Cross takes control. Pittman tells him to not screw it up. James Walsh arrives after Alex and the two head up the ghetto building. Cross asks where Cavalierre is and Walsh tells him she took a few days off to see her family. Brand's girlfriend, Theresa Lopez, lives in the projects there. Cross warns Walsh that Brand is most probably armed. They lead a team of eight, which includes Sampson. They burst in the apartment. Theresa Lopez's three children are watching TV. Brand comes out of the bedroom holding a gun to Theresa's head. He tells them he was at a wedding last week and that someone is setting him up. He puts down the gun.

The next morning Alex picks up Jannie from the hospital. The tumor is found to be benign and was successfully removed. The next evening there is a briefing at the FBI building. Alex thinks that the Mastermind is done robbing banks and is now playing a game of “catch me if you can.” The next day, Cross, Cavalierre, Doud and Walsh go to Hartford, Connecticut to interview Metro Hartford employees and former employees. The last person Cross interviews, a woman named Hildie Rader has the most useful information. She claims to have met one of the kidnappers.

She tell them she frequented a bar and a man struck up a conversation with her. The next day the man appeared again, but seemed more interested in getting information on Metro Hartford executives. Hildie says the bartender was a friend of hers and told her that the man had asked about her by name the day before he met her. She also told them that the man had also talked to another employee from Metro Hartford asking more questions about Metro Hartford executives. Cross and Cavalierre decide to interview both women the next day and try to get a composite drawing of the suspect. Cavalierre and Cross go out for a drink and later try to make love in Betsey's hotel room, but Alex is too emotional and cannot. Betsey hugs Alex, telling him she knows he's not ready yet.

The Mastermind quietly breaks into a home. He puts on a Bill Clinton mask like the one used on the first robbery. He goes upstairs and goes into a bedroom. He jumps on a woman and binds and gags her. He tells her if she tells anyone about this he will kill her. He says he is going to impregnate her. He warns her she has to have the baby or he will kill her. The next day Cavalierre tells Cross about the incident. The woman had contacted the police after all. The woman had left the hospital and was found tortured and poisoned. She had disobeyed the Mastermind and he carried out his threat.

Alex returns home. In the middle of the night, Cavalierre calls Alex to tell him they got a break. A girl thinks her father was involved in the robbery. Her father is an NYPD cop. Cross and Cavalierre head to New York City to see the girl. The girl was fifteen-year-old Veronica MacDougal, the daughter of Brian MacDougal. She was turning her father in because Brian drank too much and struck Veronica's mom a lot. Brian was a narcotics detective with his partners. They’d all been working together for twelve years.

Veronica noticed that her father had more money than an average cop should. She claimed she was very observant and said when she grew up she would make a great detective. He could afford fancy clothes, take expensive trips, buy a new car every other year and had a sailboat. One night she followed her dad when he was drunk to her grandmother's house. Hidden in a shed was a bag with $20,000. She became more observant. She overheard a conversation with Jimmy Crews about a job in Washington DC. Soon afterwards he was gone for four days, during which the Metro Hartford kidnapping had occurs. He returned the day after. That night he had broken Veronica's mom's cheek bone. That night, she went to the shed and found more money. Veronica opens her backpack and takes out a load of cash, $10,000.

The five cops are put under surveillance. The ransom money at the grandmother's shed was removed. They also run a background check on the detectives. The Department of Justice decides to take all five of them at the same time. The takedown was at 5 am. Cross and Cavalierre are at MacDougal's. Inside, MacDougal starts to shoot. It was like he knew they were coming. He tries to get away but Alex stops him and punches him several times. It takes a few days, but MacDougal tells Cross that he can tell them how to find the Mastermind but wants a deal. He tells Cross that they were only involved in the Metro Hartford job, not the other jobs and that no one was ever killed in his jobs. A few days later the Mastermind breaks into James Walsh's house and kills him with a .357 Magnum, but makes it look like a suicide.

The next morning Cross is asked to look at the scene. Mike Doud is with him. Walsh was Doud's best friend. He believes it was not a suicide despite the appearance. Alex returns to New York. The Justice Department agrees to make the deal with MacDougal. MacDougal tells them the Mastermind is in the mental ward at Hazelwood Veterans Hospital. Sampson and Cross go to Hazelwood. Despite the senior doctor's protest, Cross will work as a counselor and Sampson as a porter. That night, the Mastermind writes another hate letter, this time to his landlord. He is angry that his doctor revoked his privilege to leave the hospital grounds. He stops writing and leaves his room when he sees Dr. Cross. Alex has a list of suspects he thinks is the Mastermind and he reviews them with Sampson. Later that night Cavalierre reports that Agent Mike Doud is missing.

After a week, Cross thinks the hospital is a dead end. After some persuasion, Cavalierre has Alex agree to spend the weekend together, as she says that he is ready for another relationship. They go to a hotel and make love. Both Alex and Cavalierre decide to officially start a relationship together. The second day Alex begins to wonder about the first job at First Union. They decide to look over the personnel files again. After a few hours Alex sees a name he recognizes, a man who is a patient at the hospital, Frederick Szabo. Alex watches Frederick Szabo and for several days he does nothing and never leaves. Cavalierre calls Alex. She went to First Union bank and interviewed former co-workes of Szabo. He was the Director of Security. He was meticulous, exact and precise. The employees used to call him the Mastermind.

The next day, Cross notices Szabo leaving. He follows him to his apartment. Cross notices that there was never any mention of Szabo ever working at the bank or having an apartment. In fact the file said Szabo was homeless and never had a job since leaving Vietnam. Cross waits until Szabo leaves before breaking in and looking around. He finds a file cabinet with hate letters written to major banks, as well as the plans and layouts for the banks hit and the Mayflower Hotel. From the corner of his eye he sees a man wearing a Clinton mask charging at him with a big hunting knife. The man yells Cross’ name. The two struggle. Cross pushes him away and shoots him in the shoulder. Cross removes the mask and sees it is Szabo. Szabo yells at him and tells Cross he has the wrong man.

The FBI arrives at Szabo's apartment. Szabo is taken to a cell where despite all of Cross’ and Cavalierre's questions, he remains silent. After several hours, Szabo grins and tell Cross again that they have the wrong man. After several exhausting hours Cross returns home. He lies awake in bed and recalls his conversation with Tony Brophy and his description of the silhouette of the Mastermind. Szabo does not match that description. Cross calls Cavalierre and tells he that he thinks he knows who the real Mastermind is. Cross convinces Cavalierre and then the two convince Kyle Craig. Cross and Cavalierre head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. More FBI agents are there to meet them. Alex was remembering the picture of Dr. Bernard Francis. Dr. Francis met the description of the silhouette that matched Brophy's description. Francis had been Szabo's therapist for nine weeks in 1996 and five months in 1997. The FBI puts around the clock surveillance on Dr. Francis, who is entertaining a prostitute. A call comes in and the agents listen. It's from one of the nurses at Hazelwood. She warns Dr. Francis that the FBI was back and going through all the files.

The next day Cross and Cavalierre get an idea and run it past Kyle, who approves it. The FBI arrests the nurse, who claims not to be in contact with Dr. Francis or been involved in the robberies. A search through her apartment shows a diamond used as part of the ransom. She then confesses to knowing about the kidnappings, the robberies, Francis and Szabo. Dr. Cross and Betsey Cavalierre go to Francis' house to arrest him. He opens and acts surprised. Francis had learned about how to rob a bank from Szabo, who had shared his ideas and blueprints. Szabo had also made notes of the sessions. Francis makes his way to the roof and jumps off landing in the pool. Cross and Cavalierre go after Francis who is trying to make his way to the parking lot, but the FBI is there waiting for him. He takes out a bottle of poison and drinks it, falling on the ground. He is still alive and with his last words he tells Cross that they have the wrong man.

Epilogue. Three week have passed. Alex, Sampson, Nana Mama, Janelle and little Alex attend Damon's choir concert. That night Kyle Craig calls to tell Alex that Betsey has been murdered. Alex gets dressed when the phone rings again. It's the Mastermind. He tells Alex that he killed Betsey and that all they had caught were his minions. At Betsey Cavalierre's house, the scene is terrible. She has been raped and stabbed in her vagina multiple times, dousing her entire body in blood. Alex swears he will kill the Mastermind.

The final chapter is told through the eyes of the Mastermind, immediately after Alex swears to kill him. He reveals he is among the dozens of FBI agents gathering evidence at Betsey's house, and he is ecstatic over the fact that they are all cursing his name. Kyle Craig, the Mastermind, then decides to go one step further in his game and tells his good friend Cross he is sorry for his loss.

Film Adaptations[edit]

It has been confirmed that Roses Are Red will be produced into a movie. Tyler Perry will take over for Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross and will, before the Roses Are Red adaption, star in two adaptions of Cross and Double Cross. Alex Cross was released in October 2012 to negative reviews, despite Perey being praised for his new role in an action film, not having to deal with Madea.


The events continue in Violets Are Blue.